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Tom Ridge on Government Reform

Secretary of Homeland Defense; Former Republican Governor (PA)


More effective to have one Cabinet DHS, not a dozen agencies

Homeland Security Advisor Tom Ridge had persuaded skeptics like me that it would be more effective to have one Cabinet secretary and one agency in charge of all homeland security responsibilities, instead of spreading those responsibilities throughout the government.

Ridge received fresh evidence that a single agency was necessary when his efforts to merge border security agencies were stopped by interdepartmental turf battles. Congress was also demanding to be briefed on the administration's homeland preparation by a single person, not a succession of bureaucrats.

The president announced to the nation on June 6, 2002, that he wanted to create a new federal department and had ready-made plans to do so. His proposal was generally well received by the public, but drew hostility from congressional committee chairmen fearful of relinquishing their agency oversight to a different committee.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.310-311 , Mar 9, 2010

Replace "need to know" culture with "need to share"

For as long as Washington, D.C. has been the nation's capital, a certain attitude has prevailed of "need to know." That is, you, as an ordinary citizen or a local official, don't need to know, and so shouldn't know, unless you're part of the inner circle and have the proper security clearance. There are legitimate reasons for secrecy, of course. The FBI and CIA, for example, would compromise many of their investigations if they revealed key details to the public. Even so, those agencies and every other one carry that policy to unnecessary and even dangerous extremes for reasons other than necessity--a circumstance that, we would all learn, impedes the real work of government in regard to homeland security. That culture was incompatible with the mission of the office and ultimately the new department. We wanted to change a "need to know" culture to a "need to share" culture.
Source: The Test of our Times, by Tom Ridge, p. 71 , Sep 1, 2009

Reforms must respect state's rights to select electors.

Ridge adopted the National Governors Association position paper:

The Issue

In the wake of the United States presidential election in Florida, the Congress and the administration has expressed interest in federal standards for elections. Recognizing that Articles I and II of the United States Constitution grants states, not Congress, the authority to determine the manner of selecting presidential electors and conducting elections generally, most legislative proposals do not mandate federal standards. Rather, current proposals direct federal agencies or commissions to study and make recommendations concerning the election system. Nonetheless, the possibility of legislation in the 107th Congress requiring states to implement federal election standards remains. If enacted without adequate funding by the federal government, such legislation could also result in an unfunded mandate to the states.

NGAís Position

Articles I and II of the United States Constitution grant states the authority to determine the manner of selecting presidential electors and provide that states are responsible for establishing election procedures generally. However, in the wake of the 2000 presidential election, the nationís Governors recognize the need for election reform. NGA will continue to monitor federal legislation addressing this issue, but has not taken a position in support of or opposition to election reform efforts.
Source: National Governors Association "Issues / Positions" 01-NGA11 on Aug 1, 2001

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Page last updated: Jul 12, 2013